Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- A Handbook of Ethical Theory - 50/52 -

offer any detailed solution of the problem of loyalty to the state. In the one case, as in the other, I suggest as guides tradition, intuition and reflective reasoning. I can only counsel good sense and some degree of patience. It may be said: You do not solve the difficulty for the individual. I admit it. Such difficulties every thinking man must meet and solve for himself.

169. THE LAST WORD.--Those persons, whether students, or teachers, who dislike this final chapter, may omit it, without detriment to the rest of the book. The doctrine of the Rational Social Will is not founded upon this chapter. The latter is a mere appendix.

I regret that, in a work in which I have wished to avoid disputation, I have felt compelled to touch upon religious duties at all. But they have played, and still play, so significant a role in the history of mankind, that the omission could scarcely have been made. You are free to take them or leave them; but you are not free to take or leave the Rational Social Will as the Moral Arbiter of the Destinies of Man.


1. CHAPTERS I TO III.--The notes in a book of any sort are rarely read, except by a few specialists, and by them not seldom with a view to refuting the author. I shall make the following as brief as I may. But I do wish to give some of my readers--all will not be equally learned--an opportunity to get acquainted with a few books better than this one. This first note is not addressed to the learned, and some will find it superfluous.

I intend to mention here a handful of books which any cultivated man may read with profit, and re-read with profit, if he has already read them. They can be collected gradually at a relatively slight expense, and it is a pleasure to have them in one's library. The list may easily be bettered, and may be indefinitely lengthened. I mention only books for those who are accustomed to do their reading in English.

It is hardly necessary to say that I do not advise all this reading in connection with the first three chapters of this book. But, as those chapters are concerned with the accepted content of morals as recognized by individuals and communities, I have a good excuse for bringing the list in here. Many other good books, not in the list, are referred to later in the volume, in other chapters.

It is very convenient to have within one's reach some such book as Sidgwick's _History of Ethics_. The only fault to find with Sidgwick is that he has made his book too short, and has not given enough references. But he is admirably fair and sympathetic, as well as clear and interesting.

He, who would dip more deeply into the Greek moralists, can read the accounts of the ancient egoists, Aristippus and Epicurus, in the _Lives of the Philosophers_ by that entertaining old gossip, Diogenes Laertius. The translation in Bohn's edition will serve the purpose.

As for the greatest of the Greeks--a keen pleasure, intellectual and aesthetic, awaits the man who turns to Plato's _Republic_ and his _Laws_. Jowett's great translation is in every public library. And we must read Aristotle's _Nichomachean Ethics_ and his _Politics_. Here little attention is given to artistic form; but the preternatural acuteness of the man is overpowering. If we would understand some of the reasons which induced Plato and Aristotle to write of the state as they did, we can turn to chapter xiv of Grote's _Aristotle_.

With certain later classical moralists most of us are more or less familiar. Seneca, in his work _On Benefits_, gives a good picture of the moral emotions and judgments of an enlightened man of his time. He was a great favorite with Christian writers later. Cicero's work, _De Officiis--On Duties_--it is best known under the Latin title, is very clear and very clever. It is, in its last half, full of "cases of conscience." I venture to suggest to the teacher of undergraduates who find ethics a dry subject, that he give them a handful of Cicero's "cases" to quarrel over. Doing just this has brought about something resembling civil war in certain classes of my undergraduates. It has done them good, and it has vastly entertained me. But each teacher must follow his own methods. We can none of us dictate.

How many of us have drawn inspiration from the noble reflections contained in the _Thoughts_ of Marcus Aurelius and in the _Discourses_ of Epictetus, those great Stoics! The unadorned translations of George Long will serve to introduce us to these.

To get a good idea of how the moral world revealed itself to a Father of the Church in the fifth century, we have only to turn to that most fascinating of autobiographies, the _Confessions_ of St. Augustine. His _City of God_ is too long, though interesting. Augustine's thought influenced the world for centuries. Then we may take a long jump and come down to St. Thomas, the great Scholastic of the thirteenth century. To get acquainted with him, we may turn to the English versions by Rickaby, _Aquinas Ethicus_. Those of us who are smugly satisfied at belonging to the twentieth century must remind ourselves that there were great men in the thirteenth, and that many among our contemporaries are still listening to them. We Protestant teachers of philosophy are sometimes in danger of forgetting this. A strictly fresh century and a strictly fresh egg cannot claim to be precisely on a par.

I do not think that I shall add the modern moralists to this list. There are a great many of them, and many of them are very good. But they are discussed at length in Part VII, which deals with the schools of the moralists. Citations and references are there given. I think, however, that I ought to add here that I should regard an ethical collection incomplete that did not include at least one of the comprehensive works on morals lately offered us by certain sociologists. Westermarck's wonderful book--a mine of information--on _The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas_, or the admirable book by Hobhouse, _Morals in Evolution_, will serve to fill the gap.

Information regarding editions of all the books I have mentioned can be had in most public libraries, or from any good publisher and book-seller.

As for the reading to accompany these Chapters, I-III, I suggest looking over the chapters by Westermarck and Hobhouse, indicated in foot-notes. He who would realize how men have differed in their moral outlook on life might read the lives of Aristippus, Epicurus and Zeno, in Diogenes Laertius; or follow the account, in Sidgwick's _History of Ethics_, of Aristotle's teaching, as compared with the ethics of the Church.

2. Chapters IV to VII.--These chapters on ethics as science and on ethical method do not appear to me to call for extensive notes. Several foot-notes are given which might be followed up. I think it would be a very good thing for the student to read chapters i and vi in Sidgwick's admirable work, The _Methods of Ethics_.

3. Chapters VIII to X.--To undertake to give any adequate list of references on the chapters which treat of man's nature and of his material and social environment would take us quite too far afield. I merely suggest looking up the articles on "Anthropology" and "Sociology" in the _Encyclopedia Britannica._ References are given there. And one should not overlook Darwin's great book on _The Descent of Man_. It will never be rendered superfluous, although the men of our day criticize it in detail. A recent work of value is "Heredity and Environment in the Development of Men," by Professor Edwin Grant Conklin, 1918.

4. Chapters XI to XVI.--Here my notes must be somewhat more detailed, for we are on quite debatable ground. At any rate, there is much dispute, between men of unquestionable ability, on the one side and on the other. I may be pardoned for thinking that the general argument of these chapters is reasonable and sound.

In commenting upon Chapter XI, I suggest that the reader look up what Hobhouse has to say on impulse, desire and will, in his volume, _Morals in Evolution_; also that he consult the same topics in James' _Psychology_. McDougall's _Social Psychology_ might be read with much profit.

Some admirable writers have a repugnance to using the word "volition" in speaking of the brutes. I cannot help thinking that this is a dispute touching the proper use of a word, rather than that any important distinction in _kind_ is marked. Some human volitions stand out very clearly as such. There are free ideas present, there is the tension of desires, there is deliberation, and there is clearly conscious choice, or the final release of tension. But how many of the decisions--I see no objection to the word,--which we make during the course of a day, are of this character! It would be difficult to set a lower limit to volition.

Muirhead, who writes, in his _Elements of Ethics_, clearly and well of desires, emphasizing the presence of "tensions," follows the Neo- Hegelian tradition in speaking of will. He describes it as the act by which the attention is concentrated upon one object of desire, and he calls the act of choice the _identifying of oneself_ with one object or line of action.

Naturally, it is not easy to think of the bee or the ant or the spider, perhaps not even of the cat or dog, as "identifying itself" with some object of desire. I suggest that the reader, after a perusal of Muirhead, reflect upon what Hobhouse has to say of the lower animals; or that he look up Miss Washburn's book on _The Animal Mind_, (second edition, 1918), where a really serious study of the brute is undertaken.

On Chapter XII, I find no comment necessary. As to Chapter XIII, I recommend to the reader a reading or re-reading of the fascinating pages in which James treats of instinct in his _Psychology_. And let him look up the same subject in McDougall's _Social Psychology_. At the same time, I enter a note of warning against reading even such good writers uncritically. There is no little dispute in this field. Dr. H. R. Marshall's volume _Mind and Conduct_ gives an unusually thoughtful account of instinct (N. Y., 1919).

Comment on Chapter XIV is not imperatively necessary. But I must speak with detail of Chapter XV, for the best of men quarrel when they come upon this ground:

Sec 49. The psychologist takes into his mouth no word more ambiguous than "feeling." It may be used to indicate any mental content whatever--John Stuart Mill could speak of consciousness as composed of a string of feelings. Herbert Spencer divided conscious processes into "feelings" and "relations between feelings." James obliterates the distinction, and finds it possible to speak of "a feeling of _and_, a feeling of _if_, a feeling of _but_," etc. (_Psychology_ I, p. 154, ff.).

Some writers do not distinguish between emotions and feelings. Thus, Darwin, in his _Descent of Man_, calls pleasure and pain "emotions." Marshall (_op. cit._, chapter ii) makes emotions, and even intuitions, "instinct-feelings." Dewey, in his _Ethics_ (p. 251), appears to treat emotions as synonymous with feelings. Gardiner, in his

A Handbook of Ethical Theory - 50/52

Previous Page     Next Page

  1   10   20   30   40   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything